Kentucky debates possible smoking ban

People across the Tri-State venture across the Ohio River every weekend to participate in the entertainment options Northern Kentucky offers.

In addition to movies, dancing and dining, the land beyond the river offers another perk to some visitors: the ability to smoke.

Kentucky is one of only 13 states that hasn't banned smoking in public places.

That reality came into question Thursday when the Kentucky House Health and Welfare Committee voted to pass a measure that would ban smoking in restaurants and other public spaces.

That vote came after Gov. Steve Beshear urged state lawmakers to take action during his annual State of the Commonwealth speech on Wednesday. Gov. Bashear said tobacco addiction is hurting productivity in the state, increasing medical costs and, most significantly, killing people.

According to a recent anti-smoking ad, Kentucky has the highest rate of smokers and lung cancer cases in the nation. According to the American Lung Association, 29 percent of adults in Kentucky smoke. By comparison, 25 percent of people 18 years or older smoke tobacco products in Ohio and Indiana.

Despite the push to ban lighting up in the Commonwealth, many Republicans in Kentucky hope to keep the state from becoming smoke-free.

9 On Your Side spoke with several state Senators who made it clear the bill would not pass.

"When my wife and I take our children to restaurants we choose non-smoking restaurants and I think there is definitely an argument to be made for that. But at the same time I'm not going to infringe on the fundamental right of property owners who use their property in a way they deem appropriate," said state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

Even though British researchers found that smoking can take 10 years off a person's life, some Kentucky officials believe the health effects alone aren't reason enough to institute a ban.

While McDaniel and others don't believe statewide action is the answer, they do support Northern Kentucky University's decision to ban smoking on campus.

"I think as it relates to government and our function as the owner of property, I certainly commend actions like that. But at the end of the day, we can't continue to infringe on the rights of private property owners and how they choose to exercise that right."

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